Kerry to Cuban Government in Spanish: ‘There is Nothing to Fear’

“No hay nada que temer” (“there is nothing to fear”), Secretary of State John Kerry told Cuban communist government officials and their Obama administration guests at the new United States embassy in Havana Friday, applauding dictator Raúl Castro and President Obama for the reestablishment of diplomatic relations that culminated in today’s ceremony.

Kerry landed in Havana this morning for the ceremony, in which the three U.S. Marines who took the flag down in 1961, when President Dwight Eisenhower ended relations with Castro regime, would have the honor of raising it again. “I feel at home here,” Kerry told the crowd, declaring it “a day for pushing aside old barriers and exploring new possibilities.”

Kerry then addressed the crowd in Spanish, calling the road leading to this day “long, but that is precisely why we have to be in this very instance.” “There is nothing to fear,” he told the crowd, “there are many benefits we will enjoy when we allow our citizens to know each other better, visit each other more frequently… exchange ideas and learn from one another.”

Reverting to English, Kerry compared Cuba to Vietnam, arguing that Hanoi was a successful example of sharing diplomatic ties with a dictatorship that routinely violates human rights. The new relationship, he asserted, would mean both governments would “stop being the prisoners of history and focus on the opportunities of today or tomorrow.”

Secretary Kerry mentioned the “obligations” of international human rights norms, and told the crowd that Americans believe “the people of Cuba would be better served by a genuine democracy… where institutions are answerable to those they serve and civil society is allowed to flourish.” Cuban state television, dissidents on the island tweeted, did not translate this remark, instead airing the remark “it is a warm morning.”

“We urge the Cuban government to make it less difficult for cuban citizens to open businesses,” Secretary Kerry continued, adding a touch of realism to an otherwise idealistic, at best, speech: “the embargo has always been a two-way street.” The Cuban government strengthened travel and shipment restrictions in response to President Obama’s call to reestablish relations in December. Secretary Kerry concluded calling for the two governments to see each other as “two peoples who are no longer enemies or rivals, but neighbors,” and applauding both President Obama and the younger Castro. Cuban dissidents, many of whom are imprisoned on a weekly basis, beaten, and abused by Cuban government officials, were not allowed to attend the event. To prevent any disturbances, the Cuban government arrested more than 90 dissidents over the weekend, many of whom marched on the streets of Havana wearing masks of President Obama to protest American legitimization of their oppressive government. Images on social media showed a member of the Ladies in White dissident group bloodied by a state attack; she was arrested and her whereabouts are unknown.

Other Ladies in White, the organization says, were detained in the early hours of the morning to prevent them from being visible during Secretary Kerry’s visit:


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